Once you've found a good pair of walking shoes, it can be hard to say goodbye. But if you regularly wear your favorite shoes, know that they're not made to last forever.
Shoes wear out over time, and if you don't replace them, you risk developing various foot problems over time. So how do you know when it's finally time to get rid of them? We asked the experts about the red flags to watch out for. Read on to discover five signs that it's time to replace your walking shoes.
Shoes that bend in the wrong place
It might be easier to put on shoes that aren't too stiff, but that doesn't mean that very soft shoes are better for you. If your walking shoes bend in the midfoot rather than the front, they need to be replaced, according to Samantha Landau, DPM, a foot specialist and attending physician at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine in Orthopedics. “If the midfoot starts to bend, the shoe is no longer suitable for wear,” warns Landau. In this case, it probably means your shoe's midsole has compressed, Sandeep Singh, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at ClinicSpots, shares. “To test the midsole, turn the show from heel to toe. If it bends easily or excessively, it means the midsole has lost its integrity and stability,” Singh explains. “When the midsole is compressed, your shoes lose their bounce and responsiveness, which can affect your comfort and performance.”
Cushioning is worn
The structural integrity of your shoe could also be compromised from the inside. Mauricio Garcia, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and project support coordinator for Hyper Arch Motion orthopedic sneakers, says you need to pay attention to whether the cushioning inside is flatter or less favorable over time. “The reduced cushioning inside the shoe fails to properly absorb the impact of each step,” warns Garcia. “This causes increased pressure on your feet and can contribute to foot discomfort, fatigue and potentially even structural problems.” As Josh Weight, a physiotherapist and director of Gravity Physio, further explains, you want your walking shoes to feel like you're walking on “fluffy marshmallows” at all times. “If you feel more like you're walking on concrete, that's a telltale sign that your shoes have lost their cushioning,” he says.
Shoes no longer fit
Many people don't realize that their feet can change size over time, Cameron Bennet, a qualified podiatrist and owner of My Family Podiatry, tells Best Life. “So a shoe that once fit perfectly may no longer fit you,” says Bennet. “Wearing shoes that don't fit properly can cause blisters, calluses, corns and ingrown toenails, as well as altering your gait, which can lead to ankle, knee, hip or back problems.” To check the fit of your walking shoes, Singh recommends putting them on and walking around for a few minutes. “You should feel comfortable and secure in your shoes, with enough room for your toes to move and your heel to stay in place,” she says. Or, you can also check the width and length of your walking shoes by tracing your foot on a piece of paper to compare with the outline of your shoes. “If your foot is wider or longer than the shoe, it means your shoes are too small for you,” Singh explains. “If your foot is narrower or shorter than the shoe, it means your shoes are too big for you.”
Uneven wear patterns
The soles of your walking shoes will naturally wear out over time. But if this causes unevenness, that's a major red flag, according to Garcia. “Unusual wear patterns, especially if the wear is in a specific area of the sole, are a good indicator that the shoe's support and alignment are failing,” he says. If you continue to wear walking shoes with uneven wear patterns, you could be putting yourself at risk in more ways than one. “Uneven wear patterns on soles can affect the distribution of forces when walking, resulting in imbalances, altered gait or abnormal walking mechanics, as well as increased stress on various parts of your feet that can lead to foot pain and injury,” Garcia says.
Visible shoe wear
Walking shoes are generally considered “worn out” if they've been used between 300 and 500 miles, Bruce Pinker, DPM, a board-certified podiatrist and foot surgeon, tells Best Life. But if you're not sure how long you've been walking in yours, take a look at the shoe itself. Is the heel counter worn? “Wearing the shoe with a worn heel counter, which is the area of the walking shoe behind the heel of the foot, can eventually lead to rubbing and irritation in the heel area,” says Pinker. You'll also want to check for visible wear on the shoe's fabric upper, Singh adds. “Look at the sides, front, back and top of the shoe and look for signs of wear. If you see holes, rips, tears, stains or loose spots, it's time to buy new shoes,” he said. “When the upper is damaged, your shoes lose their shape and fit, which can cause rubbing, pressure or irritation on your feet.”
In conclusion, if you notice any of these signs in your walking shoes, it's time to replace them. Worn shoes can lead to foot problems and even injury. It's important to keep your feet healthy by wearing the right shoes and replacing them regularly.